12 August: Devoted to thrill-seekers
This day was very eventful and began with the first report session. After lunch when last arrangements were made everybody gathered in the bar and the first report session began.
Hedvig Ølmheim, MA Student, Tromsö University, conducts her study together with the other members of the history and law department. In the expedition they study both the history and the rights of indigenous people and the history of the RV Professor Molchanov. So our vessel became the hero of their presentation at the first report session.
- Preparing for the session we spent a lot of time on the bridge interviewing the crew and the captain. It was interesting to find out how many different things the RV Professor Molchanov had done because it was involved in many different fields such as science and tourism. I think that the most interesting event in Molchanov’s life is happening right now and it is the Arctic Floating University. It is very exiting to have this kind of school and science at sea, - says Hedvig.
There are 4 foreigners and 2 Russians in Hedvig’s group but it does not make them feel uneasy. They have very good communication. The biggest problem is that some members of the group are very sea sick and they have to lie on the floor (as we have learnt from the previous diaries of the expedition) during the group work.
- The day before we had prepared the PowerPoint presentation so this morning we spent drinking tea, working out final details and discussing how we would talk about our topic. We were not nervous about the session. It was very interesting to listen to other departments’ reports and to present our results, - says Hedvig.
As for other departments Hedvig really liked the biologists’ presentation that interested her with flora and the presentation devoted to the Arctic tourism that created a lot of debates in the audience.
At the final report session the history and law department is going to make a description of the settlements we have visited during the expedition: Bugrino, Dikson – focusing on the living conditions and the way of life.
- We hope to land somewhere else so we will be able to include these places in our presentation.
About nine o’clock in the evening the RV Professor Molchanov reached the Ledyanaya Gavan Bay (Novaya Zemlya archipelago). At last the members of the expedition were able to feel what the landing in the Arctic conditions was: sea splashes stinging the face, strong wind blowing tears out, waves trying to join the expedition’s members and easily getting into the boat and a bear staying on the shore in 200-300 meters from the group.
Three rangers landed with the first group. While students and our film crew were working, experienced hunters with guns were keeping vigilant watch over the Novaya Zemlya host.
- Of course it is scary, only fools are afraid of nothing. If the animal is not aggressive why we have to be afraid? It was at a distance of 200-300 meters. We were of no interest for the bear just lying in tundra, - says Igor Matskevich. – The boat and the sailors were ready to go. We told them to be on the lookout. So our sailing way was open and we took into account the distance between the boat, the bear and the group. The most important rule is to avoid panic. You should be hard-headed and act according to the situation. If the bear is aggressive we can make some noise, shoot off in the air or under the legs. Maybe the bear will change its mind and go away.
It is forbidden to shoot at the bear because it is one of the red-listed animals. The polar explorers should be very attentive and vigilant as a shot into the air is an extreme measure and the only way to use weapons. Due to the existing danger other groups landed on another part of the shore to avoid meeting bear.
Igor Matskevich takes part in the scientific expedition for the first time and it is certainly his first trip to the Arctic.
- All my life I have worked in the fire-fighting service and participated in rescue operations. Now I teach the rescue theory in the tourist group for children. I have never visited such places and never travelled on vessels at sea. Everything is good except the storm.
Igor is a hunter with 30 years of service. Weapon handling and hunting skills are the main requirements for the expedition security. Due to his love for hunting birds such as wood grouse, black grouse, hazel-grouse, duck, he identifies himself as a “gamebird hunter”. But he also had an opportunity to hunt a big beast.
- I hunted elks and wild boars. I have never shot a bear myself, but I participated in the group hunting.
By the time when the last group of explorers was ready to sail, the weather had raged. Getting into the boat was the most difficult task because it tended to turn into a little “motor-pool". The last party of young explorers did not manage to do it at one push. They had to get on the shore again, to bale the boat out and to make another attempt to leave the island. But the yearning to get on board the vessel and to put on warm and dry clothes as soon as possible overcame the circumstances.
The next landing is planned for tomorrow and we hope that there won’t be so much water in our boots after it.